More than five thousand people continued Pride Week celebrations Saturday at Central Park as part of the 35th annual Front Runners New York LGBT Pride Run. NY1's Natalie Duddridge has the story.
Ahead of Sunday's gigantic march in Manhattan, runners of all ages and backgrounds, wearing every color of the rainbow, made a 5-mile trek through the park.
"We've been running together. We've been married for two years; together for six," one participant said about his husband. "He's a runner, champion, he's really good!"
There was a clear air of celebration along the course. But there was also a feeling of reflection and remembrance for the 49 people killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12, the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.
"It's been a really emotional week, and this is the best thing to do," said another runner. "Show how proud we are, and be here together in love. You can't hold us down."
A banner with the names of the 49 victims hanged at the start line. A moment of silence was followed by the national anthem, sung by cast members of the Broadway musical "Fun Home."
"At the beginning of the race, when I heard the national anthem, I was crying, just like feeling that this is such a good moment for us," one runner said. "But at the same time we're not celebrating. We have in our mind what happened in Orlando."
"The moment of silence was followed by kind of a moment of cheer, asking everybody to be loud and proud [and] never be silent about their love," said Jason Flugge of Front Runners, a running and multi-sport club for LGBT and LGBT-friendly athletes.
Many participants said they may have expected the race to have more of a somber, serious mood than in years past. Instead, they said it was a bigger celebration than ever.
But they say the fight for LGBT rights must continue.
"Everybody is not treated equal, and there are still states that discriminate," participant Ruth Gursky said. "We're very lucky to be in New York State, which doesn't discriminate, but there are still various places in this world, and there is still a fight to be had."
Some proceeds from Saturday's race are slated to go to GLSEN, INC, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which aims to assure students are comfortable in their academic environments, regardless of sexual or gender orientation.
And while Saturday's race was a marathon qualifier, for most it was not about the scoreboard, but unity and pride.
The city's annual Pride March kicks off at noon Sunday.
It starts at 36th Street and 5th Avenue in Midtown, heads south to 8th Street, then moves west to Christopher Street, and ends at Greenwich Street in the Village.
NY1 will have full coverage of the march with reports all day from along the route.